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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: When tech and politics collide

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Female keynoters battle harassment; data bias gets a fine-toothed comb-over; Congress may meet its first female founder; and more.

  • Politics and big tech have been on a collision course lately, and with Congress' lack of tech prowess, it's bound to keep happening. Luckily, Fortune reports that female tech founder Brynne Kennedy could potentially be the first of her kind to serve on Congress. Brynne is the founder of Topia, an HR software platform, and she has also launched a Congressional campaign in California's fourth district. She's up against a ten-year GOP incumbent, but clearly it's time for a fresh face with a useful background. She told Fortune, "I'd be the first female tech founder and CEO to serve in Congress. Just 6% of Congress today has any tech or software background. Which is horrifying when you think about the opportunities or challenges we face as a nation with respect to innovation and technology." (See WiCipedia: Networking helps get women on boards.)

    Two hard heads
    (Source: Pixabay)
    (Source: Pixabay)

  • In the most upsetting tech news of the week, CIO Dive explains that four out of ten female keynote speakers report being sexually harassed while attending tech events. It's hard enough for women to snag coveted keynote speaker gigs as is (only one quarter of all speakers at tech conferences are female), so having to deal with abuse on top of it is particularly heinous. And apparently, moving to a digital platform doesn't improve the situation as many trolls are braver anonymously online than they would be in person. With tech's new move to virtual because of COVID-19, companies need to quickly pivot to keep increasing the percentage of women who are keynote speakers and also protect them while they do their job. (See WiCipedia: Seeking Female Keynoters & Recruitment Fails Women.)

  • Black tech workers deal with different struggles than their white co-workers, so it makes sense that they would need different resources in order to succeed. Betakit explains that this is particularly true during COVID-19, when inequalities are even more apparent than normal and additional support systems are necessary. This is why the Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) group launched an "action plan" to help Black professionals during trying times. The plan is comprised of many elements in order to eliminate racism and bias in tech, and includes building a "virtual campus" for the group's 10,000 members, and also putting together an assessment for companies to use in order to stay ahead of discrimination and bias. The action plan was presented in full at BPTN's virtual conference this week. (See WiCipedia: Black female founders take on VC discrimination.)

  • A new film examines how machines deal with bias, and how the issue needs to be fixed once and for all. The American Prospect interviewed filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, creator of the new documentary Coded Bias. The film delves into the various civil rights and technological issues of artificial intelligence (such as not recognizing Black faces) and explains why it's so important that we tackle these issues before more damage is done. Shalini puts it best: "AI needs diverse humans. AI needs women. AI needs to be inclusive. Fourteen percent of AI researchers are women. I couldn't even find stats on people of color. That's really inexcusable. We have to find out what's going on in terms of that pipeline. Inclusion makes technologies more innovative and it's critical for technologies being deployed to everyone." (See WiCipedia: Facial recognition tech's heyday is over.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading. Follow us on Twitter @LR_WiC and contact Eryn directly at [email protected].

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